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BLOTTER TALES

So this is why people are receiving mysterious masks in the mail

A reader who lives in a small town in North Mississippi was surprised when she received this mask in the mail from Beijing.  "I didn't order it and didn't know why I received it, so I just threw it away," she said.
A reader who lives in a small town in North Mississippi was surprised when she received this mask in the mail from Beijing. "I didn't order it and didn't know why I received it, so I just threw it away," she said.Sheena Woodruff

Every day, police officers respond to reports of all sorts of events and nonevents, most of which never make the news. Here is a sampling of lesser-known — but no less noteworthy — incidents from police log books (a.k.a. blotters) in our suburbs.

SOLVING THE MASK MYSTERY

We’ve heard from a lot more readers who received masks in the mail that they weren’t expecting. They include folks from Easton, Hingham, Lowell, North Reading, Northborough ... and even as far away as New Jersey, Mississippi, and Ohio. And they all want to know: Why would a company in China send masks to people who never ordered them?

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Well, we found some answers: the Better Business Bureau says it’s most likely a scam known as “brushing.” Authorities say the companies that do this are typically foreign, third-party online sellers that send out lightweight items that are cheap to ship (such as ping pong balls, seeds, or in this instance, face masks) to make it appear as if people actually ordered the merchandise. “They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products’ ratings, which means more sales for them,” the BBB website states. “The payoff is highly profitable from their perspective.”

But if you received one of these surprise packages, take note: It means the scammers have your name, address, and possibly other personal information, and your account may have been compromised. The BBB recommends changing your account passwords and keeping an eye on your credit reports and credit card bills. If you find any activity that isn’t yours, report it right away.

Steve Doherty, a spokesman for the US Postal Service, said there’s also the possibility that the mask might be legit. “I know of some companies that have purchased masks for their employees and sent them to their home addresses,” Doherty said. “In some cases, these may have been shipped from where they were manufactured in China. So the first step would be to contact your HR department and make sure it’s not from them. Otherwise, my advice, for a mask, would be to discard it.”

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STOLEN DINNER

At 7:51 p.m. May 28, a resident of Howard Street in Watertown told police that he ordered food from a restaurant in Somerville using the DoorDash app, and at about 7:20 p.m., he received a message saying his food had been delivered. But when he went to get it, it wasn’t there. He contacted the driver who said that he’d given the food to a man outside the house when he pulled up. The food order cost $49.15, so whoever intercepted the meal must have eaten well that night.

INTERESTING CHOICE OF A GETAWAY VEHICLE

Detective Keith Forget of the Salisbury Police Department tweeted about an odd theft that occurred on Aug. 11, when someone stole a Mercury boat motor from a local boat storage yard. “A suspect on a bike was captured on a security camera with what appears to be the motor in his lap,” he tweeted. Anyone with information about the theft should call police at 978-465-3121.

HOT FASHION

At 12:12 p.m. Aug. 4, police and firefighters responded to a 911 call reporting an active fire at the Marshalls store in Waltham. Investigators determined that someone intentionally set some clothes on fire in the store. Firefighters immediately extinguished the flames and brought the clothing rack outside. The state fire marshal’s office is offering up to a $5,000 reward for any information that leads to identifying the suspected arsonist. Anyone with information is urged to call the arson hotline at 1-800-682-9229 or contact Waltham police detectives at 781-314-3550 or the Waltham Fire Department at 781-314-3700.

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Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.